Patch Stuff

So a wee bit of patching today started out nicely with some recently fledged Swallows on an old farm building being fed by their parents. A Sand Martin passed over earlier in the day whilst I was gazing out the window.

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My aim today was to do a bit of skywatching to see if anything good was passing over *cough*crossbills*cough*cough*. So I was heading through the field to my usual spot on a bench overlooking my patch, just by Braid Hills Drive.

Whilst on my walk I became aware of the distant calls of a young Sparrowhawk. Pretty much certain it was coming from the conifers on one of the golf courses on my patch where I’ve frequently seen a male Sparrowhawk flying to with something in his talons. That’ll be the 4th successful brood of Sparrowhawks that I’ve found on my patch in the past two days! They’re all pretty well spaced out, with one pair probably hunting over Braid Hills, one hunting amongst the houses to the north of Blackford Hill, one pair in the Hermitage of Braid, and one pair using the field and houses around Liberton. Nice to see Sparrowhawks though, I don’t see them that often unless it’s this time of year when they are all fledging and getting to grips with being such a fearsome predator.

After that I was alerted to the presence of something threatening by the Swallows above the field and I soon had my bins on a male Sparrowhawk who I followed as he failed miserably to catch a House Martin and then went off in a huff over Liberton and I lost him as he disappeared amongst the gardens.

Once I made it to my Skywatching bench, totals were as follows: 14:33 – 14:53

Feral Pigeon: 10

House Martin: 3

Lesser Black-back: 11

Swallow: 6

Swift: 5

Linnet: 4

Rook: 1

Woodpigeon: 6

Buzzard: 1

Goldfinch: 1

Great Tit: 2

A pretty mixed haul, favourite being the Buzzard which drifted from way away over Duddingston and eventually came close enough for me to recognise the bird. It’s the one I most often see over my patch, quite often hanging about over the allotments by Midmar Drive. Mobbed by LBBGsSwifts, and House Martins, he/she nonchalantly  floated over on thermals (we had relatively nice weather today) without really bothering to acknowledge the other birds.

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As I sat on that bench staring up at the sky, my eye was drawn to a bright yellow flash which I originally thought had to be a Wood Warbler but then reality kicked in and I realised this was not very likely. After a wee bit of discussion with someone, it’s a juvenile Willow Warbler. If it had just called then I’d have never even considered Wood Warbler. Oh well…

P1120710 P1120716 It’s just below the House Sparrow.

I wandered on, a Yellowhammer called from Braid Hills Golf Course, which I’m considering adding to my patch… Although that’d only add Yellowhammer which does turn up on my current patch every now and then. Plus Braid Hills is almost all Golf Course and won’t add much habitat. I suppose that’s that sorted out.

2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers called from Howe Dean path, not sure how successful that pair has been but I’d imagine they’ve raised at least 1 as I’ve seen one of them straying into the woodland by my skywatching bench.

Another Sparrowhawk flew from above the top end of Craigmiller Park Golf Course towards me and off over Braid Hills. A nice big female, as opposed to the wee male that flew over the field.

The Buzzard that I’d seen before peaked over the top of Blackford Hill from the side where the allotments are, and a family of 5 Whitethroats fed noisily in the Himalayan Balsam and Brambles. That reminded me of the Lesser Whitethroats on my patch and I planned to pay them a visit later on.

After looking at all the new faces of juvenile song birds that are all over the place, I saw the male Kestrel hovering effortlessly above a small plantation near the Council Depot. That’s the first time I’ve seen all three common raptor species of my patch (in one day) in a long time. I’ve seen Buzzard and Kestrel over the house every now and then and Sparrowhawk sightings have been getting more frequent recently. Peregrines are not that common over my patch but I’ve seen them on occasion. One sighting of 1 over Edinburgh from the top of Blackford Hill, 1 flying past the King’s Buildings, and 1 very high over the field. Osprey do pass over most years, in fact one passed over just after I’d come in from being on patch looking specifically for Ospreys but I never saw that one. I’ve been told Merlin has passed over a few times too but I’m yet to get that lucky.

Another Sparrowhawk hawking low over a patch of Blackthorn on the side of Blackford Hill had me up to 5 raptors in one day, and another Buzzard brought that up to 6. This Buzzard I suspect is one of this years young as I didn’t recognise it at all. Quite dark compared to others that I’ve seen. The one I mentioned before is a fairly average looking Buzzard, and there’s another one that I know which is quite pale fronted.

Quite happy with how the day went. That was me on 3/3 raptors and I’d managed to get 5/7 finches too. (Chaf, Green, Gold, Bull, Linnet). I headed up to the gorse-y, Elder-y patch where the Lesser ‘throats live and had a sit down.

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Unfortunately I never got the desired Sylvias, but a suspected flyover Lesser Redpoll made up for it. after seeing 2 in bushes on the Hermitage Golf Course yesterday (patch tick no. 72!) I started listening to their call on Xeno Canto and realised they do the squeaky door bit like a Goldfinch. Never knew this before and I’m slightly embarrassed that my finch calls aren’t up to scratch! Will have to work on those…

Also over this area, which I’m calling Red Oak Plantation as there’s a stray Red Oak amongst the Sessile Oaks, I also had  Black-headed Gull. Numbers of these are increasing as I expected them to do but I wasn’t sure when tis would start happening. Now I know.

The walk home gave a flock of ~30 Goldfinches on a patch of Creeping Thistles, and a nice view of the hundreds of Woodpigeons and mixed Corvids which are feeding on the barley in the field.

Once home I had a look in my field guide at Wood Warbler and as I was doing so I heard a very loud bang out my window (which is always slightly open in hopes of hearing something good go past). It immediately reminded me of the gunshots I hear from the Moorfoot Hills when I’m at Gladhouse Reservoir. But I suspect this noise was actually some sort of scaring device used to get the birds off the crop… Unlikely that someone would take out a gun and fire it in this built up part of Edinburgh. Sure enough, all the birds flew up and disappeared into the trees.

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Patch Stuff

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